Firefly

Back to Batman: Arkham Origins, the Firefly fight is horrible enough to merit calling out individually. Almost everything I complained about previously is present in one fight, which is kind of impressive in terms of developer mistakes.

This fight is the one each game feels the need to have where you do not use your standard mechanics. It is neither a combat nor a predator challenge; it is a gadget challenge. Cute, fine, although it is effectively a poor echo of Clayface. Because this is the only fight of its type, it comes in the latter half of the game but still plays like a tutorial. Every single button click you need pops up on the screen. Double-click 5! Double-click 1! More! Double-space to dodge! Double-click 2! More spaces! Congratulations, another boss fight reduced to a quicktime event.

Has there ever been a time when quicktime events were good design? Didn’t we get enough by the end of Dragon’s Lair back in 1983? If your boss fight design makes worse use of a thirty-year-old design, you are not advancing the franchise. (Firefly’s cut scenes also include pure quicktime events, which are of course equally lousy and lazy as game design.)

As with the other fights in the game, the timing and/or implementation of the tutorial pop-ups is off, so following the directions on the screen can get you killed. Firefly throws bombs. If you paralyze him while he does so, the camera goes to a close-up, a mini cut scene between pressing 5 and 1. The bombs are still there, all around you, and you cannot dodge during a cut scene. You just take damage off-screen. As noted last time, this sort of thing is still in the game after several major bug-fixing patches.

Ah, but the fight is in phases, even if the phases are exactly the same. (Should we pause on that one? You get several identical servings of the above in one fight.) In between, you get to move to a new fight area. For some reason, the game switches to pure third person for that, like in the Mad Hatter’s scenes. This lets Firefly also repeat every problem there, including having the camera move so that you need to change directions on the keyboard to keep going in the same direction on the screen, along with the chance to fall off a cliff because the camera moved while you were moving.

To bring it all together, the game combines all of these issues. While moving in third person, the camera then moves to look at an obstacle (instead of showing Batman) and brings up a tutorial pop-up in case you forgot how the movement controls work. Then the camera moves again while you are navigating that obstacle, has part of a cut scene, and you need to keep moving because everything is on fire.

Finally, navigating the area invokes my old friend “annoyingly linear.” You are the Batman, with a huge number of tools and tricks available, including several specifically for navigating vertical and horizontal distances. There could hardly be a better setting for Batman or Spider-Man’s grappling, swinging, leaping, and gliding movement than a damaged bridge with struts and bars available at all angles. There is, of course, only one path through it. Your grappling hook may be able to reach the top of a building from the ground, but it cannot reach across the 10-meter gap unless you cross a beam, use another gadget, and jump to a different angle. You are in an area with so much open air that you will be fighting a flying opponent, but there is only one path through it.

It is not only that the design decisions are poor and derivative. They are also poorly executed.

: Zubon

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